Happy Mother's Day 2020

On May 10, 2020, the United States will celebrate the 106th official Mother’s Day. Like Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day is an observance that is part of the American culture, often times with little to no thought to the original intent. So, let’s take a look back and see how our modern celebration of Mother’s Day came to be.

There are some historians who believe that the modern celebration of Mother’s Day originated as far back as ancient Greece. Spring celebrations in honor of Rhea, the Greek goddess of fertility, motherhood, and generation were held every year in anticipation of the new growth to come. While some countries still hold festivals honoring goddesses of fertility and motherhood, there is not a basis found in these types of festival celebrations that would compare to our current Mother’s Day observance.

During the American civil war, a peacemaker named Ann Jarvis made a conscientious effort to bridge the hard feelings of the war by encouraging mothers of both sides of the conflict to foster a friendship based on their mutual experience of mothers to soldiers fighting a war. She continued these efforts following the war and in 1868 Ann Jarvis established the first ‘Mother’s Friendship Day’.

After Ann passed away her daughter, Anna Reeves Jarvis, continued her mothers work and in 1908 established the first observation of Mother’s Day. Anna Reeves Jarvis’ vision of Mother’s Day was to be an intimate day either honoring the mother or her memory. One of the ways in which Anna Reeves Jarvis honored mothers was by displaying carnations; red for living mothers, white for those who had passed.

Identifying the second Sunday in May as the official day of observance, President Woodrow Wilson signed Mother’s Day into law in 1914. The use of carnations by Anna Reeves Jarvis was the basis for the flower industry exploiting the newly formed holiday. Having quickly become commercialized Anna Reeves Jarvis spent the rest of her life trying to undo what had become of the Mother’s Day observance, even going so far as to publicly condemn Eleanor Roosevelt for using the observance as a day to raise funds for her husband.

Today, Mother’s Day has grown into the third most expensive holiday observance in the United States. The average American spends $180 on gifts, cards, flowers, and treats for Mom. This is a major windfall for local restaurants, spas, florists, candle makers, greeting cards, and jewelers. And rightly so. This celebration has expanded from honoring your own mother, too. There is an average of 2.8 greeting cards per American bought for this holiday. Grandmothers, step-mothers, mothers-in-law, and spouses are being recognized for their contribution to the raising of children. I have several women that I am blessed to be able to honor on Mother’s Day: Joanne (mother), Emily (wife), Jeanne (a second mother), Cindy (mother-in-law), Shelby (daughter), and Hope (daughter-in-law).

Over the last century Mother’s Day has morphed into a massive commercial celebration for one the most influential people in each of our lives. While the relationship may change, the status of Mother never will. Let us take time out a little bit of time this year to truly honor all of the mothers who have inspired you, cared for you, encouraged you, taught you, and in all the other ways have shown how much she has loved you. This year I will be displaying my several red and one white carnation. Mrs. Reed, you are missed and your absence will last far beyond Mother’s Day 2020.

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